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Nuns mum on Sacred Heart building’s future

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They call themselves the Apostles of the Sacred Heart. But last June, the nuns on Zerega Avenue broke Anthony Ventola’s heart.

Citing financial concerns, they shut down the Sacred Heart Private School, a 75-year old K-8 institution. Ventola graduated from Sacred Heart in the early 1970s. His daughter attended preschool and kindergarten there. Now Ventola’s daughter is a first grader at St. Theresa’s School.

“She’s kind of accustomed to her new school already,” Ventola said. “Not me. I’m still in mourning over the closing of Sacred Heart.”

Sacred Heart taught about 180 students in 2007-2008. According to Ventola, his daughter’s former classmates have scattered.

Ten families accompanied the Ventolas to St. Theresa’s. Another contingent moved two blocks down Zerega Avenue to the Santa Maria School, also run by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart.

Some children transferred to the Villa Maria Academy, some to St. Benedict’s School. Schools in New Rochelle and City Island accepted Sacred Heart students. At least one family chose P.S. 304.

Ten Sacred Hearters enrolled at St. Raymond Elementary this school year.

“We gained some really nice kids,” St. Raymond principal Sister Patricia Brito said. “We’re happy to have them.”

There are plenty of Catholic schools in the neighborhood. Sacred Heart stood out as small and academically rigorous.

“Losing Sacred Heart saddens me,” Brito said. “A small school is what some students need. At St. Raymond we focus on community, but we have more than 700 kids.”

Ventola agreed.

“I went to Sacred Heart for seventh and eighth grade,” he said. “I came from the south Bronx. Sacred Heart was upscale.”

The school’s closing has triggered anxiety among community members. When city planners downzoned the neighborhood in 2006, they let Zerega Avenue’s 1600 block’s zoning remain. A convent sits next to the school.

What if the religious order sells its property to an unscrupulous developer? CB 10 district manager Ken Kearns shudders to think.

“I’m concerned,” Kearns said. “It would be great if the site could retain its educational character. A charter school would be good. What the board doesn’t want is another drug treatment center. Westchester Square is saturated with social service facilities.”

Sister Barbara Matazzaro, who heads the Connecticut-based order’s Zerega Avenue location, was unavailable for comment as of press time. According to Kearns, the nuns have stayed silent on school’s future.

“There’s been no dialogue,” Kearns said. “I don’t know what they plan to do with it.”

The Apostles of the Sacred Heart continue to operate a daycare and an after-school program out of the school, a representative in Connecticut said.

The Sacred Heart Learning Center preschool is open 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The nuns’ after-school program runs 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Dante Crognale manages Frank & Joe’s Deli, which sits across the street. For years, Frank & Joe’s sold lunch to Sacred Heart.

“The school didn’t have a cafeteria,” Crognale said. “We served 25-30 kids a day, $4.50 for a hot and $4 for a cold. We definitely miss Sacred Heart.”

Zerega activist, Sandi Lusk, is optimistic about the school’s future.

“I heard the nuns were going to keep it,” she said.

Ventola is fuming, however.

“Nothing is happening with that property,” he said. “What a waste.”

They call themselves the Apostles of the Sacred Heart. But last June, the nuns on Zerega Avenue broke Anthony Ventola’s heart.

Citing financial concerns, they shut down the Sacred Heart Private School, a 75-year old K-8 institution. Ventola graduated from Sacred Heart in the early 1970s. His daughter attended preschool and kindergarten there. Now Ventola’s daughter is a first grader at St. Theresa’s School.

“She’s kind of accustomed to her new school already,” Ventola said. “Not me. I’m still in mourning over the closing of Sacred Heart.”

Sacred Heart taught about 180 students in 2007-2008. According to Ventola, his daughter’s former classmates have scattered.

Ten families accompanied the Ventolas to St. Theresa’s. Another contingent moved two blocks down Zerega Avenue to the Santa Maria School, also run by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart.

Some children transferred to the Villa Maria Academy, some to St. Benedict’s School. Schools in New Rochelle and City Island accepted Sacred Heart students. At least one family chose P.S. 304.

Ten Sacred Hearters enrolled at St. Raymond Elementary this school year.

“We gained some really nice kids,” St. Raymond principal Sister Patricia Brito said. “We’re happy to have them.”

There are plenty of Catholic schools in the neighborhood. Sacred Heart stood out as small and academically rigorous.

“Losing Sacred Heart saddens me,” Brito said. “A small school is what some students need. At St. Raymond we focus on community, but we have more than 700 kids.”

Ventola agreed.

“I went to Sacred Heart for seventh and eighth grade,” he said. “I came from the south Bronx. Sacred Heart was upscale.”

The school’s closing has triggered anxiety among community members. When city planners downzoned the neighborhood in 2006, they let Zerega Avenue’s 1600 block’s zoning remain. A convent sits next to the school.

What if the religious order sells its property to an unscrupulous developer? CB 10 district manager Ken Kearns shudders to think.

“I’m concerned,” Kearns said. “It would be great if the site could retain its educational character. A charter school would be good. What the board doesn’t want is another drug treatment center. Westchester Square is saturated with social service facilities.”

Sister Barbara Matazzaro, who heads the Connecticut-based order’s Zerega Avenue location, was unavailable for comment as of press time. According to Kearns, the nuns have stayed silent on school’s future.

“There’s been no dialogue,” Kearns said. “I don’t know what they plan to do with it.”

The Apostles of the Sacred Heart continue to operate a daycare and an after-school program out of the school, a representative in Connecticut said.

The Sacred Heart Learning Center preschool is open 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The nuns’ after-school program runs 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Dante Crognale manages Frank & Joe’s Deli, which sits across the street. For years, Frank & Joe’s sold lunch to Sacred Heart.

“The school didn’t have a cafeteria,” Crognale said. “We served 25-30 kids a day, $4.50 for a hot and $4 for a cold. We definitely miss Sacred Heart.”

Zerega activist, Sandi Lusk, is optimistic about the school’s future.

“I heard the nuns were going to keep it,” she said.

Ventola is fuming, however.

“Nothing is happening with that property,” he said. “What a waste.”

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